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10 Presentation Tips for Better Audience Engagement

Do you ever look out into the audience during a presentation and see a sea of blank stares? If so, read on to learn the top tips for better audience engagement.

Did you know that the average attention span of an adult during a speech is about 5-10 minutes? Some even say that our attention span is shorter than a goldfish’s and is only a few seconds long since we are so used to multi-tasking.

Without a focus on audience engagement, you can quickly lose your audience and your message will fall on deaf ears (or at least zoned out ears). Presenting to a crowd can be nerve-wracking, not to mention trying to focus on engaging your audience too.

Not to worry though. There are tools and techniques that you can use to keep your audience engaged. Keep reading for 10 ways to increase audience engagement.

Audience Engagement: What Exactly Is It?

Audience engagement can mean different things to different people. Audience engagement with a digital audience (such as on blog posts, news articles, or social media posts) is different than audience engagement during a speech or other presentation.

In general, audience engagement means that your audience is alert, paying attention, interactive, and connected with you. We’ve all sat through speeches or presentations where there was little or no engagement. When the speaker isn’t engaged, they quickly lose us, and you’re counting down the minutes until it’s over.

Rather than wasting your time and the time of your audience with a lackluster and unengaging presentation, use these tips to improve your audience engagement and wow them at your next speaking opportunity.

How To Increase and Improve Engagement

What you can do to improve audience engagement depends on a number of different things. The size of your audience, the size and type of venue, the type of audience, and your own set of skills.

You should consider all of this when you’re planning your speech and how you will be engaged.

1. Plan Ahead

Don’t just wing your speech or presentation. Plan ahead, practice it (it’s even better if you can practice it for an audience), and think about how you’ll engage your audience.

If you want to ask questions, incorporate some sort of participation exercise, or hear from your audience during the presentation, plan for that ahead of time. It’s fine to go off script a bit and change your technique based on the audience, but you should have a loose idea ahead of time at least.

2. Connect With Your Audience

Early in your speech or presentation, try to connect with your audience. Ask them a question, have them identify themselves as part of a certain group, or tell a personal story to connect with them.

Whatever you choose, you want to find some common ground with your audience.

3. Involve The Audience

Involving the audience, whether that is through asking questions or asking them to share their experiences or opinions gives them the sense that you value what they think and what they have to say.

You should always think about what you’ll do if you don’t get participation though. There’s nothing worse than finishing up your speech or presentation much quicker than planned because the audience wasn’t engaged and didn’t participate.

4. Allow Time For Response

Have you ever sat in a classroom and the teacher or professor asked a question, waiting a few seconds, and then when no one raised their hands, simply told you the answer and moved on?

If you do that, your audience won’t really be motivated to participate. Why should they, if you’ll just tell them the answer and move on anyway?

Learn how to effectively use silence. Let it go on long enough and someone will usually participate, simply to break up the awkward silence. It usually just takes one person to participate to break the ice. Once the first person is brave enough to volunteer, others often follow.

5. Acknowledge Contributions

As much as you might be nervous about speaking to a large group, audience members might be just as nervous when faced with the prospect of participating with many other people in attendance. Simply acknowledging what they have to say (whether you agree or not) and thanking them can go a long way.

Remember, you don’t want to react in such a way that others feel uncomfortable sharing.

6. Work The Room

Walk around, come down from the stage if there is one, and try to loosen up if appropriate. If leaving the stage or walking around isn’t feasible, such as in the case of a large venue or formal presentation, there are other ways to work the room.

Make eye contact, smile, nod your head and pay attention when audience members are participating, and show your enthusiasm.

7. Add Some Humor or Emotion

Humor or emotion (whether happy or sad) is a good way to get the audience engaged. They’ll be interested in what you have to say, feel comfortable with you, and be willing to share.

If you’re not naturally funny though, or feel awkward telling jokes, don’t try too hard. There’s not much worse than a joke that falls flat in a room full of people.

8. Avoid Reading From Slides or Notes

If you use PowerPoint or some other presentation software, keep the content minimal. Too much information on a slide often leads to the presenter reading from them.

Minimize the amount of information and fill in from your own knowledge. Avoid over-reliance on your notes too. This is where practice ahead of time will come in handy. Make sure you know your information.

9. Take the Pulse Of The Room Often

Assess whether your audience is still with you or if you’re starting to lose them. If you’re starting to lose them and see people checking their watch, on their phone, or getting restless, change things up a bit. Get them involved, take a break, or insert some humor or emotion.

10. Reflect On Your Speech or Presentation

We all learn from doing and practicing, so after your speech or presentation, reflect on what went well and what you could have improved upon. Don’t dwell on things that didn’t go right; you can’t change them now.

It is important, though, to think about what worked and what didn’t. Take a few notes and remember those things the next time you find yourself presenting.

The Bottom Line

There are many resources out there to help you increase your audience engagement. If you need assistance with your presentation or your public speaking skills, we are here for you.

Check out our services and contact us to see how we can help.

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